The Info List - Herbert Giles

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HERBERT ALLEN GILES (8 December 1845 – 13 February 1935) was a British diplomat and sinologist who was the professor of Chinese at Cambridge
University for 35 years. Giles was educated at Charterhouse School before becoming a British diplomat in China. He modified a Mandarin Chinese
Mandarin Chinese
romanisation system established by Thomas Wade , resulting in the widely known Wade–Giles Chinese romanisation system. Among his many works were translations of the Analects of Confucius , the Lao Tzu (Tao Te Ching) , the Chuang Tzu , and, in 1892, the widely published A Chinese-English Dictionary .


* 1 Biography * 2 Legacy * 3 Diplomatic postings * 4 Awards * 5 Written works * 6 Translations * 7 References * 8 Sources * 9 External links


Herbert A. Giles was the fourth son of John Allen Giles (1808–1884), an Anglican
clergyman. After studying at Charterhouse , Herbert became a British diplomat to Qing China , serving from 1867 to 1892. He also spent several years (1885–1888) at Fort Santo Domingo in Tamsui
, northern Taiwan . He was the father of Bertram, Valentine, Lancelot, Edith, Mable, and Lionel Giles . In 1897 Herbert Giles became only the second professor of Chinese language
Chinese language
appointed at the University of Cambridge
, succeeding Thomas Wade . At the time of his appointment, there were no other sinologists at Cambridge. Giles was therefore free to spend most of his time among the ancient Chinese texts earlier donated by Wade, publishing what he chose to translate from his eclectic reading in Chinese literature.

His later works include a history of the Chinese Pictorial Art in 1905 and his 1914 Hibbert Lectures on Confucianism
which was published in 1915 by Williams and Norgate (de). He dedicated the third edition of Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio (1916) to his seven grandchildren, but at the end of his life was on speaking terms with only one of his surviving children. An ardent agnostic, he was also an enthusiastic freemason . He never became a Fellow at one of the constituent colleges of the University of Cambridge, despite being a university professor for 35 years. He finally retired in 1932, and died in his ninetieth year.


Giles received the Prix Julien award from the French Academy
French Academy
in 1897 for his Chinese Biographical Dictionary. Generally considered unreliable among modern academics, Endymion Wilkinson described it as:

full of inaccuracies and the selection leaves much to be desired. Between one third and a half of the dates are wrong because Giles supposed that if somebody is recorded as having died in 1200 aged 63 he or she must have been born in 1137 (in most cases 1138 would have been a better guess).

He also ran afoul of the Chinese scholar Gu Hongming , who declared

Dr. Giles' Chinese biographical dictionary, it must be admitted, is a work of immense labour. But here again Dr. Giles shows an utter lack of the most ordinary judgment. In such a work, one would expect to find notices only of really notable men.

Nor did Gu appreciate Giles' great Chinese-English Dictionary describing it as

... in no sense a dictionary at all. It is merely a collection of Chinese phrases and sentences, translated by Dr. Giles without any attempt at selection, arrangement, order or method," and "decidedly of less value than even the old dictionary of Dr. Williams."


* British Vice Consul at Pagoda Island, Mawei (1880–1883) * British Vice Consul at Shanghai (1883–1885) * British Consul at Tamsui
(1885–1891) * British Consul at Ningpo


List of awards and honours:

* Order of Chia-Ho * Gold medal of the Royal Asiatic Society * Prix St. Julien by the French Academy
French Academy
(twice) * Honorary degrees from the University of Aberdeen
University of Aberdeen
(1897) and University of Oxford


* Giles, Herbert Allen (1872). Chinese Without a Teacher. A.H. de Carvalho. * — (1873). A Dictionary of Colloquial Idioms in the Mandarin Dialect. A.H. De Carvalho. * — (1874). Synoptical Studies in the Chinese Character. Kelly & Company. * — (1876). Chinese Sketches. Trübner & Company. Archived from the original on March 28, 2006. * — (1877). Record of the Buddhistic Kingdoms. Trübner & Co. * — (1877). Handbook of the Swatow Dialect: With a Vocabulary. . * — (1877). From Swatow to Canton: (overland). Trübner. * — (1878). A glossary of reference, on subjects connected with the Far east. * — (1879). On Some Translations and Mistranslations in Dr. Williams\' Syllabic Dictionary of the Chinese Language. A.A. Marçal. * — (1892). A Chinese-English Dictionary. B. Quaritch. Volume 1 * — (1892). A Chinese Biographical Dictionary. B. Quaritch. Volumes 1-2 * — (1898). Chinese Poetry in English Verse. * Wade, Thomas Francis; Cambridge
University Library (1898). A catalog of the Wade collection of Chinese and Manchu books in the library of the University of Cambridge. Compiled by Herbert Allen Giles. University Press. Retrieved 24 April 2014. * — (1901). History of Chinese Literature . * Great Religions of the World (1901) * — (1901). Chinese Without a Teacher: Being a Collection of Easy and Useful Sentences in the Mandarin Dialect, with a Vocabulary. Kelly & Walsh, limited. * — (1902). China and the Chinese. Columbia University Press, The Macmillan company agents. * Thomas Lowndes Bullock; Herbert Allen Giles (1902). Progressive Exercises in the Chinese Written Language. Kelly & Walsh, limited. * Launcelot Cranmer-Byng; Herbert Allen Giles (1902). The never-ending wrong: and other renderings of the Chinese from the prose translations of Herbert A. Giles. Grant Richards. * Giles, Herbert Allen (1905). An Introduction to the History of Chinese Pictorial Art. Keloy & Walsh, ld. * The Religions of Ancient China (1906) * — (1911). Chinese Fairy Tales. * — (1911). The Civilization of China. * — (1912). China and the Manchus. The University Press. * "China" in History of the Nations (1913) * Confucianism
and Its Rivals (1915) * How to Begin Chinese: The Hundred Best Characters (1919) * The Second Hundred Best Characters (1922) * Revision of Bullock's Progressive Exercises (1922) * Chuang Tzǔ: Mystic, Moralist, and Social Reformer (1926, Shanghai) * The Chinese and Their Food (Zhonghua Fanshi) (1947, Shanghai) (posthumous) * "The Memoirs of H.A. Giles," East Asian History 13 (1997): 1–90. Dated 1925.


* Sungling P'u (1880). Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio. T. De la Rue & Company. * Lao Tzu (1886). The Remains of Lao Tzu.


* ^ "Herbert Allen GILES (1845–1935)" on the Cambridge
University Library website * ^ "Giles, Herbert Allen (GLS932HA)". A Cambridge
Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. * ^ Aylmer, Charles, East Asian History 13–14, 1997, pp. 1–7; Sterckx, Roel, In the Fields of Shennong: An inaugural lecture delivered before the University of Cambridge
on 30 September 2008 to mark the establishment of the Joseph Needham Professorship of Chinese History, Science and Civilization. Cambridge: Needham Research Institute, 2008. * ^ "An Introduction to the History of Chinese Pictorial Art by Herbert A. Giles". The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs. 7 (29): 405. August 1905. JSTOR
856445 . * ^ Chavannes, Ed. (1905). "An Introduction to the History of Chinese Pictorial Art by H. A. Giles". T'oung Pao. Second Series. 6 (2): 251. JSTOR
4525813 . * ^ Giles, Herbert A. (January 1916). " Confucianism
and Its Rivals". The Journal of Race Development . 6 (3): 350. JSTOR
29738158 . doi :10.2307/29738158 . * ^ Schlegel, G. (1897). "古今姓氏族譜, A Chinese Biographical Dictionary by Herbert A. Giles". T'oung Pao. 8 (4): 438–441. JSTOR
4525305 . * ^ Kennedy, George A. (July–September 1950). "Dates in Giles' Biographical Dictionary". Journal of the American Oriental Society. 70 (3): 188–189. JSTOR
596269 . doi :10.2307/596269 . * ^ Endymion Wilkinson (2000). Chinese History: A Manual. Harvard University Asia Center . p. 157. ISBN 978-0-674-00249-4 . * ^ "A Great Sinologue," in The Spirit of the Chinese People Wikisource
* ^ Ryan, Janette. "Giles, Herbert Allen (1845–1935)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004 ed.). Oxford
University Press. doi :10.1093/ref:odnb/33401 . Accessed 29 August 2016.


* Cooley, James C., Jr. T.F. Wade in China: Pioneer in Global Diplomacy 1842–1882. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1981. * Minford, John and Tong Man. "Whose Strange Stories? P\'u Sung-ling (1640–1715), Herbert Giles
Herbert Giles
(1845–1935), and the Liao-chai chih-i" (Archive). East Asian History 17/18 (1999), pp. 1–48. Accessed 1 February 2014. * Giles, Herbert, Edited and with an Introduction by Charles Aylmer, "The Memoirs of H.A. Giles, The," East Asian History.13 (1997): 1–90. * This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "article name needed". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge
University Press.


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